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Lawmakers Want To Expand A Federal Student Loan Forgiveness Program

A group of Democratic senators have introduced a bill that aims to broaden the Public Service Student Loan Forgiveness program in a few ways.
Posted at 12:39 PM, Apr 12, 2019

Democratic lawmakers are proposing legislation that would overhaul the Public Service Student Loan Forgiveness program. 

It's called the What You Can Do For Your Country Act, and it aims to expand the pool of student loan borrowers who'd be eligible to have their debt canceled. 

Federal data shows that as of last year, the government's forgiven just 206 borrowers' loans under the program, even though more than 41,000 people have applied. 

The Public Service Student Loan Forgiveness program, created under the George W. Bush administration, erases student loans for people who are full-time employees in certain public service jobs — as long as they've made on-time payments for 10 years. 

This new bill suggests changes like making all federal loans and federal repayment plans eligible for the program, instead of just some. It would also streamline the application process for loan forgiveness. And — maybe the biggest change — borrowers could have 50 percent of their loans forgiven after 5 years instead of 10.

Supporters of the legislation, which has backing from several presidential candidates, say reworking the program would bring more people into public service work. 

But the Trump administration's 2020 budget for the Education Department proposes cutting the program altogether, which critics argue will will steer people away from certain jobs, like police officers, firefighters and public defenders.

Analysts estimate that national student loan debt reached close to $1.5 trillion last year.